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Led Zeppelin - IV (Classic Album Review)

Led Zeppelin


By Jac Taylor


A blast from the past, that still today remains a surprisingly cohesive timeless masterpiece. Therefore, there is no better time to reminisce about it than now. Led Zeppelin IV is a recollection of an enormously powerful golden era of rock. It is not clear exactly whether Zeppelin knew that it would be such a prominent album, but the music hipsters of the time certainly knew it. Even in recent years, the mystery photo on the album was recently found out of potluck to be a 19th century thatcher. (Check out the BBC article here - Original photo from Led Zeppelin IV album cover discovered - BBC News ). Cool right?

Led Zeppelin IV ranges from some of Rob, Jimmy, John, and John’s greatest hits to covers and seriously underrated projects. From start to finish, all out bangers. To this day, this album strikes us as incredibly unique and such an important moment for Zeppelin; being a massive contributor to their later, more infamous live show at Madison Square Garden.

The sheer fusion of progressive and hard rock in tracks such as ‘Stairway to Heaven’ or ‘Four Sticks’ where Bonham uses four drum sticks to play it. The songs on this album clearly seem like they have taken an extraordinarily long time to compose. I find this thing's music and emotions to be quite intense and edgy, and it is the exact thing to love about it the most. It is so easy to get attached to any one of the tracks in this album.

Furthermore, the versatility on the vocals is important for the fact that it conveys distinct stages of a moody emotion in the album. This could have been the way the band wanted to strike a newer, darker edge that most bands simply were not at the time. You are warned! This album will take your mind to another place. The darker edge of the album features a genius level of musicianship; trapping your ears in a gaze that is psychedelic but frightening. For example, cover song ‘When the Levee Breaks’ was initially a very folky track from the 1920s but has been remastered into a heavier, deep sounding melody.

The more meditative moods can be seen in songs like ‘Going to California’ or ‘The Battle of Evermore.’ These sound of a perfect stillness within its classic rock roots that previous Led Zeppelin records such as the first two self-titled albums share. The absolute best thing about the album is a consistent reference to J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit,with track ‘Misty Mountain Hop.’

On one hand (long-story short), this is 42 minutes and 37 seconds of a psychedelic, heavenly hard rock album. And however contradictory that sounds, we all know it is true. On the other hand, the layout of each song builds up for the next in a necessary but odd fashion. A perfect album for every kind of music fan. Whatever the genre, this one stands out above all.



Classic Album: NWA - Efyl4zaggin

With their Back to Black series, USM has managed to encapsulate the spirit of hip-hop through reissuing a handful of classic releases that span the genre's life. From the likes of 50 Cent and Common, right down to scene pioneers in the forms of LL Cool J or NWA, the series offers a brief outline of a musical movement, but deeper insight in to the record's that made it, and the records that might otherwise have gone overlooked by younger fans of the genre.

My second and final review of the series, is the the second record from the aforementioned NWA, Efyl4zaggin. Nowhere near as well-known as their official debut, Straight Outta Compton, Efyl4zaggin marks the departure of Ice Cube from the group, and as a result sees several very definite changes in their approach. Not all of them positive. One which is however, is the vast improvement in Dr Dre's production, as if this was him laying the foundations for his future solo releases.

When Straight Outta Compton dropped in '88, it was a game-changer, one which spawned that many imitations, that when the time came for record number two, Dre changed it up again, this time through the introduction of darker, seemingly more fractured beats than anything that had been seen previously, something which is perhaps most evident on the record's first half, in tracks such as 'Appetite for Destruction'. It's an interesting step-up from its predecessor, one which matches the violent themes of the record perfectly, but herein lies one of the record's inherent issues also: the themes.

With Ice Cube's departure, so too departed the politically concious lyricism, at least for the most part. In their place instead, are the hyper-violent, and massively misogynistic narratives that populated rap through the most part of the '90s. Proving, if nothing else, that for better or worse Dre has always been a taste-maker, behind a microphone as much as mixing desk. It isn't just the Dr Dre show however, Eazy-E has his fair share of air time, particularly on the likes of 'Approach to Danger' or the aforementioned 'Appetite for Destruction' whilst the lack of Cube also allows MC Ren much more time on the mic than before, it's just a shame that much of the second half is filled with blatant, pointless misogyny, with tracks like 'Findum, Fuckum and Flee' or 'She Swallowed It' feeling more like they're for white middle-class teens to rebel with, rather than making any sort of comment, at least in this day and age.

In hindsight, Efyl4zaggin is a record that is ultimately a product of its time, and when viewed out of context appears almost a caricature of the genre it paved the way for. That said however, it's a milestone record that marks the splitting of hip-hop in to two very different camps: that which was interested in politics and social conciousness, and that which was interested in 'guns, bitches and bling'. And though it easily falls in to the latter category, it's hard to dismiss the craftsmanship of Dre's production throughout. And all without even a hint of over-priced headphones.




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